June 09, 2005

Health Issues

At last, some intellectual consistency, however regrettable the occasion, from a Republican. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue wants to cut off Viagra for all Medicare patients. Doctors, and Pfizer fwiw, say the medication is a valid treatment for individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. A spokesentity for the governor's health taskforce says that it comes down to a question of paring down costs before the inevitable round of cuts. Around 1,500 Georgians receive erectile dysfunction medication, five were recently discovered to be registered sex offenders. Quoth the governor:

... “It is my belief that filling prescriptions for these types of medications is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money,” Perdue said in a Tuesday letter to Georgia’s congressmen. “Impotence drugs should be categorized with drugs for fertility, smoking, weight loss and other ‘lifestyle drugs’ that are not required to be covered by Medicaid.” ...

Sweet, sticky raisins appear to contain chemicals that fight cavities and gum disease. So, if you can't afford to take the family to the dentist, um ... I guess you can all eat a mix of raisins and crunchy snacks (yay, carrots) and cross your fingers. It may be true that dental health is an important component of overall health, and that people with gruesome teeth are far less likely to find work in the US, but you should really have thought of that before you decided to be poor.

The uninsured drive up health care costs and insurance premiums for everyone else. The article suggests that yearly insurance costs will rise around $300 per person for those covered through their employer, and around $900 for families, which handily eats every normal person's share of the Bush tax cut. Maybe part of the reason has to do with how hospitals set their fees:

... Recently, an uninsured patient was charged $174,107 to fix a broken leg. Included in the charges was a $1,600 X-ray, which should have cost around $130. Another hospital in the same chain charged an uninsured patient $48,374 for a two-hour visit to treat an infection.

... Why do hospitals do this? The simplest reason is because they can. Without regulation, hospitals are free to set prices at will.

Second, by raising the "rack rate" they may become eligible for higher payments from Medicare. Also, by increasing the spread between the rack rate and the managed care rate, hospitals give payers the impression that their discounts are more significant.

The impact on the working poor is staggering. A recent Harvard University study found that 50 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States are due to health care debt. In Washington state, Physicians for a National Health Program reports that in 2004, more than 19,000 bankruptcies were caused by medical issues. ...

Four more reasons why we should applaud the Republicans' collective decision to sit and spin when it comes to preventing toxic pollution: First, exposure to certain environmental toxins can cause permanent, heritable genetic damage, including reduced fertility in males. Second, the common chemical pthalate, found in many plastics and consumer items, can disturb normal genital development in male infants. Third, the garbage fed to our farm animals is poisoning both the water supply and the people who eat their meat, and the steroids they're given put extra 'spice' in the damaging external hormone cocktail forcefed to the American public. And fourth, it will make it so much easier to convince the public that the only solution to our fast multiplying global and national crises is to ship the Republican party's political, financial and intellectual leadership to cells in beautiful Camp X-Ray and hand the keys to the Cuban government. Now that would be some extraordinarily useful rendition.

A group of doctors, scientists and Nobel laureates are asking for a fund to be created to look for cures to diseases that kill poor people, to the tune of millions of deaths all around the world. There isn't a lot of financial profit in it, in fact probably none. Yet for some reason, these silly, obvious economic illiterates still want to do it anyway. Future of humanity at stake, global travel making it easier to spread epidemics ... blah, blah, blah.

Tell it to people whose governments give a damn, because ours is busy spending $455 billion on the military, which amounts to half of global military spending and a larger 'defense' budget than the next 32 nations combined. I bet that doesn't count Homeland Security, but you know what would probably make us really safe? Cure malaria. Cure tuberculosis. Spend the paltry $2-5 billion it would cost to buy everyone on the planet a safe supply of drinking water. Make sure everybody gets basic vaccinations. Buy prenatal care for every poor mother in a developing nation and make sure that these women have access to family planning services, even if they're just preventive.

The US could probably do all that for far less than half of what it'll spend in Iraq this year, and there aren't enough bombs and bullets in all the world to make the country as safe as it would be when such a plan was even halfway to completion.

Posted by natasha at June 9, 2005 12:44 AM | Health/Medicine/Health Care | Technorati links |

Nice article, to bad things are careening out of control already, to many deaf ears.

Posted by: caring individual at June 15, 2005 01:37 PM